MUNCIE — On a day when the afternoon sun seemed to wring the sweat from your skin, Barry Evans poured two gallons of cool water through the chain-link fence and into the bowl below.
Pepper, meanwhile, seemed happy about this.
A mixed-breed chow, the dog's thick coat of off-white fur looked like it would be unbearably hot in the heat and humidity without Evans' gift of water. Meanwhile, other dogs at other places were awaiting their own deliveries of water that afternoon.
A 57-year-old Borg Warner retiree whose sleeveless shirt showed off the panther and cobra tattoos inked into his skin, Evans might not be the first man you'd picture running mercy missions for overheated canines. He does, though, and calls it his only hobby.
"I love dogs," he told The Star Press.
That's why he was in the backyard of this East Fifth Street house visiting Pepper, who he first met last winter when he helped build the dog a roomy new fenced kennel, a major improvement on the tiny old weed-cluttered one that still stands alongside it.
In helping Pepper and other dogs, Evans has joined the work originally started by Brenda Kidd, whose story The Star Press told last year. Back then, she was driving through neighborhoods looking for dogs kept out in the cold, feeding them, watering them and providing straw to help insulate their dog houses.
Reading about his old high school friend, Evans — whose wife, Kay, works at Ball State University — volunteered to help, work he continues now in these dog days of summer.
"I'm going to put a new roof on it before winter gets here," he said of Pepper's dog house.
Owned by a young relative of Bennie McCoy's, Pepper stays at the older gentleman's home. Wearing a Pacemaker and having lost his wife, Glendola, two months ago, McCoy said he appreciates Evans' help with the dog.
"The last two months I've just been going downhill," he said.
With other, more able-bodied dog owners, Evans wishes they would embrace the lessons he tries to impart. As she does during the cold months, Kidd drives neighborhoods looking for dogs at risk due to heat, then asks if she or Evans can make a regular point of delivering water and other supplies.
You'd be surprised how many people tell us no," he said, "and the dog will be sitting there without a drop of water or food."
Taking a break from the oppressive heat in his air-conditioned pickup truck, he noted that the water arrives nearly every day.
"Between me and her, pretty close," he said, adding that the cooling effect of the straw they spread helps, too, and gives the dog something to mess around with.
"Pepper buries his bones in that straw," said Evans.
In its old cage, he continued, Pepper was tightly chained to keep the dog from jumping its fence to freedom. Now that the dog has a new kennel, it is unchained and free to move about its confines.
So, what does Kidd call her dog-assisting effort?
"She calls it Set Me Free," Evans said. "I call it Off the Chain, because we're trying to get them off the chain."
One more thing, he added. In hot weather, a dog isn't unlike a kid looking for fun in the sun with a garden hose.
"It wouldn't hurt to water them down once in a while," he said.